Anne Tolley: Speech To Police Association Annual Conference
Hon Anne Tolley: Speech To Police Association
Police Association Annual Conference, James Cook Hotel, Wellington.
E ngā mana, e ngā reo, e ngā hau e whā.
Ka nui te hari ahau kua tae mai nei, I waenganui a koutou me tēnei hui. No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa.
Good morning everyone and thank you for the invitation to open your annual conference, my second as Minister of Police.
The next few days will no doubt provoke discussion and comment – and that’s very healthy.
Can I first acknowledge your President Greg O’Connor, your Executive and all the delegates here this morning.
They are strong advocates for the Association, and I value our constructive relationship.
Greg and I meet regularly – and your President knows he can call or text me at any time if there is an important issue which needs to be raised.
Recently, this has included the issue of IRD taxation on the allowance for plain clothes officers, a topic which the Commissioner has also raised with me.
I’ve had discussions with the Revenue Minister to put the case for Police, and I can tell you he is sympathetic, so I’m hopeful that we are going to get an outcome soon which will satisfy everyone.
I want to begin today by highlighting some very important statistics.
In the last fiscal year there were almost 30,000 fewer recorded crimes.
Over the past three years there were over 75,000 fewer crimes.
Offences fell by 7.4 per cent in the past year – with a 17.4 per cent reduction over three years.
So the focus on crime prevention by our frontline officers is getting the results we all wanted – safer communities and fewer victims of crime.
And I want to thank Police staff for their great efforts.
I am well aware of the dedication, sacrifices and bravery shown by Police officers, and I can tell you it is hugely appreciated. And I know the Prime Minister is presenting bravery awards here later today.
I’m advised that there has been a 22 per cent drop in assaults on Police between 2007 and 2012.
And while that is to be welcomed, one assault is too many.
I also want to acknowledge the support of Police family members, who play such an important role, in giving their backing to loved ones in the Police service.
The significant drops in crime come at a time when our Frontline Police are better resourced than ever before. We’ve supported the introduction of firearms and tasers in every car as a tactical option.
We’ve rolled out thousands of smartphones and tablets to officers right across the country, allowing them to input and access information and data while still on the frontline, without the need to take up valuable time driving back to the station.
This is helping to deliver over half a million additional frontline prevention hours a year – or the equivalent of around an extra 350 officers.
So our Police are more visible and are on the streets for longer, with the tools they need to do their job.
Foot patrols were up 70 per cent last year – and we also have 33 Neighbourhood Policing Teams focusing on the areas which need more attention.
And a total of fifteen new Police stations have opened since the start of 2009, with overall building costs of around $125 million.
I’m pleased to say that following the National-led Government’s boost to baseline funding of $50 million in 2009, we’ve managed to maintain Police funding since then, despite some considerable financial pressures.
Following all this excellent work, it’s no surprise that overall public trust and confidence in the Police is at a record high.
And this public trust in Police is reflected in the fact that, while crimes have gone down, the number of calls to Police has actually increased.
I’m told there are various reasons for this, including the success of the Crime Reporting Line – which has resulted in a better service for victims and the freeing up of time for frontline staff – but has also seen additional demands on Communication Centre staff.
To respond to these pressure points, Police are increasing resourcing by employing the equivalent of 18 full-time additional staff in the Centres. And this is an area I know that PNHQ will continue to monitor closely.
This is a prime example of the need to keep adapting and changing, both to react to different circumstances, and to try and keep one step ahead.
We can’t stand still if we are to drive crime down even further.
Part of that involves having the best-trained staff.
The current model has served Police extremely well, but it hasn’t been reviewed for a number of years.
To ensure that Police staff are getting the training they need to deal with changing demands, and are being given the skills they need to serve the public, we are having a good look at models used overseas to see if there are any possible improvements that can be made to training in this country.
And I’ll be travelling to Brisbane and Melbourne next week with Deputy Commissioner Rickard and the National Manager Training, John Price, to assess different approaches in Queensland and Victoria.
We need to keep improving, adapting, and delivering the service that the public wants and expects.
And while crime is falling, this is also a good time to look at gangs, and what can be done to reduce the harm they have on our communities.
We know they are more sophisticated, more organised, and are now working together to make profits.
This was an issue raised here at your conference last year. I did take the warnings seriously, but quite simply, Police can’t do it all on their own.
We want to take a whole of Government approach to tackling gangs and the harm they cause to individuals and communities.
Everything I’ve seen suggests we can’t just arrest our way out of this issue.
We need to include all relevant Government agencies.
Yes, we need to look at how we can strengthen law enforcement, but we also need to investigate how to stop young people joining gangs and how we can support members to get out of their gangs, and leave their criminal lives behind.
So we want to come up with some practical ways of making a real, sustainable difference.
Police are playing the lead role, and are currently working together with Corrections, Justice, MSD, Education, Health, TPK, Customs and Inland Revenue to review intelligence and assess initiatives already in place to tackle gangs.
I’m advised they are making good progress. This won’t be an easy task – it will take years, not months to make a difference – but we believe it is worth the effort.
And there is plenty of other work underway which affects Police, as we concentrate on crime prevention and trying to reduce the number of victims – and stop people being re-victimised.
Proposals for a sex offenders’ register will be going to Cabinet before the end of the year.
We are looking at extending 24 hour GPS tracking to high-risk domestic violence offenders.
And Corrections is working on the introduction of alcohol-monitoring bracelets for high-risk offenders and bailees in the community.
All of these initiatives will act as deterrents to offenders, and will give Police more knowledge to help us make our communities safer.
We’ve made great progress in the last few years – but we are focused on doing more.
We are serious about delivering the Better Public Service Targets of reducing the crime rate by 15 per cent, reducing the violent crime rate by 20 per cent, and reducing the youth crime rate by 25 per cent by 2017.
And a new commissioner will be in charge for the next stage of the journey.
Advertising began at weekend for the next Commissioner, with Peter Marshall remaining in charge until April next year.
Can I say that during a time of great operational change, Peter is doing a sterling job, and I know he commands huge respect among staff.
He will leave a great platform for his successor to build upon.
The Commissioner of Police is a unique position in the public service. As far as I am concerned, the successful candidate will need to have substantial experience of hands-on Policing.
The challenges in the years ahead make it essential that this leadership role has the very best person at the helm to continue delivering success for New Zealanders.
I wish you great success with your conference.
Thank you again for asking me to speak with you today.